Unified Sports® in Schools
Unified Sports® is a registered program of Special Olympics. It is a program that combines approximately equal numbers of athletes with and without an intellectual disability on sports teams for training and competition. All Unified Sports® players, both athletes and Unified partners, are of similar age and matched by sport skill ability. Unified Sports® teams are placed in competitive divisions based on their skill abilities, ranging from training divisions (focused on skill-learning) to high-level competition.
In 1992, as part of an effort to reach school-aged athletes, Special Olympics Connecticut formed a partnership with the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC) to bring Special Olympics Unified Sports® to schools across the state. Special Olympics Unified Sports® School Programs administered by CIAC operate throughout the school year and closely follow the academic calendar. Unified Sports® events are organized in each sport season for elementary, middle and high school students. All public and parochial schools in Connecticut are invited to participate.
"Although we all learn sports skills, more importantly, we learn life values from each other and our experiences together." - Marney Squires Pollack, Partner (Farmington High School)
This innovative approach has had and will continue to have a dramatic impact on the number of school-age children who now have the opportunity to participate in organized team sports through their school. The Special Olympics Unified Sports® School Program administered by CIAC currently boasts a participation of more than 3,500 athletes and partners, in 200 schools throughout the state.
Special Olympics recently launched its Play Unified campaign to broaden understanding and awareness of Special Olympics and to encourage individuals of all ages - especially young people ages 14 to 25 - to join the Special Olympics movement and help create more unified and just communities around the world. Get involved and find out more here.
Those engaged will make a meaningful difference by aiding in the fight to end critical problems in the world - inactivity, intolerance and injustice - and by helping to shape the world into one in which respect, tolerance and equality prevail. We want to inspire attitudes that lead to activity WITH our athletes rather than than an approach of doing things FOR our athletes. Those who get involved through this campaign will lead us into the next 50 years of our movement and will do so by simply playing unified.
The meaning of the Special Olympics Unified Ball
Special Olympics is a social movement, grounded in sport. Sport is a universal language: the great equalizer. And the Special Olympics Unified Ball is the most iconic representation of this sharable experience that transcends geopolitical, racial, economic, gender and intellectual constructs. So when you pick up a ball and throw it to another, things can change. It's amazing how such a simple action can have such a resounding impact. Our Special Olympics Unified Ball will serve as an invitation to connect with our movement in a meaningful and transformative way.
The Pathway: Special Olympics Unified Sports® in Connecticut Schools - Pre-K to Grade 12
Continuation on The Pathway at high school level means a greater emphasis on team participation and interpersonal relationships between partners and athletes.
Benefits of high school Unified Sports® include:
- Positive social interaction between students with intellectual disabilities and those without
- Ties that develop into friendships on and off the playing field
- New friendships, improved self-esteem and positive changes in attitudes, behavior and performance
- Inclusive school communities where the values of tolerance, patience and sensitivity are the cornerstones.
Students in this level of The Pathway begin to transition from individual sport skills and gross motor development to team-based competition.
Athletes and partners participate in:
- Intra-squad scrimmages
- Interscholastic meets
- CAS/CIAC tournaments
Students participate in sports activities that focus on skill and gross motor development. Athletes and partners have opportunities to participate in basketball, soccer, volleyball and track & field events with students from around the state. Schools are encouraged to organize several practice sessions locally and then come together for a regional Unified Sports® event which allows athletes and partners to showcase their sport skills within sport specific stations.
Children in preschool through grade 2 are encouraged to take part in Special Olympics Young AthletesTM program which compliments the gross motor skills already taught in Connecticut's public and private primary grade schools.
The CAS/CIAC Unified Sports® and Special Olympics Connecticut team provide the following:
- A kit of activity supplies
- Assistance and support
- A curriculum guide with DVD
- An end-of-year culminating event
For more information on Special Olympics Unified Sports® School Programs administered by CIAC, click here.
To find out how to start a program at your school, contact:
George Synnott, Director of Special Olympics Unified Sports®
To find out about opportunities to continue participation in Special Olympics Unified Sports following high school graduation, please click here.